Monday, May 29, 2017

The Queen's Handbag

The Queen's Handbag. Steve Antony. 2017. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The Queen was ready for her tour of Great Britain when...swoosh! A sneaky swan swooped off with her handbag! The swan was fast, but so was the Queen. She drove after it to...Windsor Castle. Then she rode after it to...

Premise/plot: The Queen is about to set off on a great adventure. Her adventure may not be the intentional tour of Great Britain she had scheduled, but, her wild-swan-chase takes her all over the UK. Readers catch a glimpse--in passing--of Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, the White Cliffs of Dover, Oxford, Snowdonia, the Giant's Causeway, Angel of the North, Edinburgh Castle, and the London Marathon. A note at the back of the book gives a bit more information about each.
Snowdonia is a national park in north Wales. It has the biggest mountain in the United Kingdom. Many rare animals live in the park, including feral goats, rainbow leaf beetles, and red kites.
My thoughts: Is The Queen's Handbag really for children? Maybe, maybe not. I know plenty of adults who will get a thrill out of watching the Queen chase after her handbag. It's just amusing to see the Queen pilot a plane, ride a motorcycle, run along the top of a train, etc. It's just as amusing to see anyone and everyone chase after the Queen. Some of the pages have a Where's Waldo feel to them. It takes a little work to spot the Queen among the crowd. For example, when the Queen 'accidentally' participates in the London marathon. The book is of interest to anyone of any age who loves all things British. The illustrations definitely are worth paying attention to. Like the end when a policeman is scolding the swan!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Share-a-Tea May Check-In

  • What are you currently reading for the challenge? 
  • Have you finished any books for this challenge this month?
  • Is there a book you're looking forward to starting next month?
  • Want to share any favorite quotes? It could be from your current read. It could be about reading. It could be about drinking tea. 
  • What teas have you enjoyed this month? 
  • Do you have a new favorite tea?
Currently reading for the challenge:
  • KJV Reformation Study Bible
  • Living Bible
  • Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
Have you finished any books for this challenge this month?
Books I've finished but not posted reviews yet:

  • Prisoner's Base by Rex Stout
  • Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat 
  • Basic Christianity by John Stott
  • Champagne for One by Rex Stout
Is there a book you're looking forward to starting next month?
I imagine I'll keep on with the classics and the Bible. It seems to be working for me!

Favorite quotes:
  • Look with kindness and you will always find wonder. ~ R. J. Palacio
  • Christ is the center of Christianity; all else is circumference. John Stott 
  • It is more natural to us to talk than to listen, to argue than to submit. John Stott
  • How is one to have an opinion if one does not get it by looking at the things which happen around us? ~ Anthony Trollope
  • People must be bound together. They must depend on each other. Of course, misfortunes may come; but it is cowardly to be afraid of them beforehand. ~ Anthony Trollope
  • “You haven’t got another cup of tea, have you?” “Oh, uncle! you have had five.” “No, my dear! not five; only four — only four, I assure you; I have been very particular to count. I had one while I was—” “Five uncle; indeed and indeed.” “Well, then, as I hate the prejudice which attaches luck to an odd number, I’ll have a sixth to show that I am not superstitious.”  ~ Anthony Trollope
  • When one is impatient, five minutes is as the duration of all time, and a quarter of an hour is eternity. ~ Anthony Trollope
  • We strain at our gnats with a vengeance, but we swallow our camels with ease. ~ Anthony Trollope
  • Wounds sometimes must be opened in order that they may be healed.  ~ Anthony Trollope
  • Love can only be paid in its own coin: it knows of no other legal tender. ~ Anthony Trollope  

All my teas these days seem to be Stash. Organic Earl Grey Black and Green Tea, Organic Chai Black and Green Tea, English Breakfast Tea, Organic Premium Green Tea.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


We're All Wonders

We're All Wonders. R.J. Palacio. 2017. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I know I'm not an ordinary kid. Sure, I do ordinary things. I ride a bike. I eat ice cream. I play ball. I just don't look ordinary. I don't look like other kids.

Premise/plot: We're All Wonders is a companion book to R.J. Palacio's Wonder. It's a picture book prequel, of sorts. It is an affirming book with a couple of strong messages. One of the messages is daring yourself to see differently, to see the WONDER in all of us.
I know I can't change the way I look. But maybe, just maybe...people can change the way they see. If they do, they'll see that I'm a wonder. And they'll see that they're wonders, too.
Look with kindness and you will always find wonder.
My thoughts: Does the world still need anti-bullying messages? I think that's an obvious yes. Words hurt--as do actions. Sometimes the pain is inflicted purposefully, intentionally. Sometimes not. Sometimes we're just clueless about how the little things we say or do effect others. Either way.
This book has an obvious message, a positive message. I think it's very well-written. The illustrations make sense if you're familiar with the cover of the original novel. But if you're not, I'm not sure what you would make of the illustration style.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Saturday, May 27, 2017

8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos

8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chao. Vivian Vande Velde. Illustrated by Steve Bjorkman. 2011. Holiday House. 68 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Being a squirrel is the best thing in the world.

Premise/plot: One day a squirrel named Twitch ends up INSIDE the school. How? Why? Well, Twitch was seeking to outrun an OWL and a dog. Twitch had until then only been acquainted with the school pets through the windows. Now, he finds himself in need of a lot of FRIENDS and ADVICE. Why? Well, the dog--the principal's dog--follows him INSIDE as well. (The owl doesn't!!!) Soon, both are trapped by the closed doors. The dog remains in pursuit of the squirrel; the squirrel has to be quick, quick, quick. The end result is a LOT of laughs. Each chapter is narrated by a different animal.

My thoughts: This one was so much fun. I didn't expect it to be so FUNNY and enjoyable. I think the alternating narrators makes this one even better than it could have been. Almost every chapter has something worth quoting--worth sharing--to draw in reluctant readers. I think this would be a great read-aloud in the classroom.

For example,
A squirrel mother teaches her young all they need to know by the end of summer, but human children spend five years in School. Five years is long enough for a squirrel to grow very, very old, so it's a good thing we're faster learners. And the humans aren't even truly finished in five years!
Ms. Walters never talks about being in first grade, so I think she may have skipped first grade, too. But she does talk about last year's second grade class. I'm smart enough to know that means Ms. Walters was kept back. But I am polite enough not to mention it.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Friday, May 26, 2017

Say Hello to Zorro

Say Hello to Zorro! Carter Goodrich. 2011. Simon & Schuster. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Mister Bud had it pretty good. Everything was just right. He had his own house. His own bed. His own toys. His own dish. But most of all...he had his own schedule. And everybody stuck to the schedule.

Premise/plot: Mister Bud is a dog who likes things his own way. This book is about when a new dog, Zorro, comes. Everything changes, but, are the changes for the better or for the worse? Will Zorro and Mister Bud get along?!

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I loved the schedule bits! I really liked how these two resolved things! Definitely recommended for dog lovers of all ages.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10
© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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